The Sunday Mail
What I am going to outline is the framework which was approved by Cabinet to guide the 2015-16 summer cropping and livestock season.
Dr Joseph Made
It encompasses the 10-Point Plan enunciated by President Mugabe through his State of the Nation Address.
The first two points of the 10-Point Plan are on agriculture.
What should be clear is that this season, comparatively and relative to the past seven years, the preparations are much better.
Even though we are still updating our figures, preliminarily statistics are that US$1,53 billion is required for both crops and livestock with US$400 million of this going to livestock.
What it entails is that the participating players who will come up with this financial support are the Government, the private sector, private contractors, international agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation), World Food Programme, commercial banks, and the Agriculture Marketing Authority, which will mobilise resources through agro bills, bilateral country to country projects and the farmers.
Farmer should look for own resources. This is an important factor for both small and large-scale farmers.
Sometimes there is a misconception that funding should come from banks or Government, but farmers should look for funding because they are in the production cycle.
Highlights for the targeted crops are that we have set a minimum of 1,5 million hectares for maize, 250 000ha sorghum, 250 000ha pearl millet, 250 000ha finger millet, 20 000ha Irish potatoes, 50 000ha sweet potatoes, 100 000ha soya beans and 259ha groundnuts.
Other crops that we have left open include sugar beans, round nuts, cow peas and sunflower.
The major crop entrant into the area resuscitation will be cotton. Government has a target of 450 000ha.
That is a major thrust which is consistent with the fact that we are taking over Cottco. Discussions are already on course for the takeover.
I want to emphasise the issue of cotton, alongside food crops.
Already, we know that the rainy season may start a bit late. For crops like cotton, grown by 60 percent of the rural population, this is a viable crop for regions that may not grow it seasonally because it is a drought resistant crop.
The farmers in those regions look forward to cotton for income at the individual level.
Cotton exemplifies what was set out in the 10-Point Plan in terms of coming up with the value chain. There is extensive scope for the cotton value chain through creation of jobs.
The survival of communities in Gokwe, Sanyati and the Lowveld escarpment areas bear testimony that cotton is vital.
It is also important because of the products that we get such as lint, cotton seed, edible oil and the by-product of cotton cake which is used in stock feed manufacturing. Some portions are used to make bond paper.
There are, therefore, many products in the cotton value chain. That is why cotton is called the white gold while tobacco is referred to as the green gold. It should also be understood that cotton fibre is important for synthetics.
The outcry by cotton farmers on low pricing will now be a thing of the past since Government has become a major player. It is critical to note that Zimbabwe will maintain its non-contaminated cotton seed in terms of non-GMO. We have the edible oil which has been tested in China and proven to be of high quality. Even stock feeds from our cotton cake are well sought-after.
There is higher price for organically produced cotton, which we have in Zimbabwe. One major player in the cotton sector who will partner us is Egypt. Therefore, we have Belarus and Egypt.
This means that we must deal with the aspect of production and see how we are going to become a major player with Government taking an important role to protect cotton farmers who have been ill-treated. Tobacco and sugarcane are also important crops.
Horticulture is key and we are supporting the sector. Zimbabwe has the best environment for growing bananas.
We are going to drill boreholes through the DDF, which will distribute borehole equipment from Belarus. The equipment will be for human consumption, livestock as well as irrigation.
As for under tubers, we will add other tubers like cassava and encourage those doing it at a small-scale.
Tubers are also drought resistant, which is an advantage.
Looking at the projects and the nature of funding, Government will support between 300 000 and 350 000 vulnerable families with between US$33 million and US$35 million.
This has started already and we are going to the Tender Board for the supply of seed and fertiliser.
The other thing is that Government is going to pay farmers the outstanding money for grain deliveries to GMB. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has been directed to do this.
We must pay the farmers so that the US$66 million which we owe them today will constitute the bulk of the money that they will use this season.
Government has already paid US$15 million; this is excluded from the US$66 million. Next week, the Reserve Bank has said it is paying US$14 million; with Reserve Bank Governor Dr John Mangudya committing to this.
It will be to clear the outstanding payments for 2014 and 2015.
He will then move to pay the 2015 and 2016 maize delivered. It has been calculated to be included in this US$66 million. So when you calculate the support of the vulnerable for US$35 million, plus US$66 million, plus the US$15 million that has been sent to Government, plus the US$15 million that has been committed to Agribank and the US$45 million that has been committed to AMA – it is proof that Government is doing a lot.
In terms of the contractors, most of them will support tobacco and other commercial crops. But this time, we are urging them to come into the maize support programme. There have been a number of contractors from South Africa and other countries.
We have said contractors must register with the Ministry of Lands. Farmers who have engaged contractors must register with the Lands Ministry.
This is because we do not want those who are allocated land to be short-changed by contractors.
Contractors should not exploit the land opportunity. When you are allocated land, it remains Government land so we don’t want people who come from behind to exploit our land.
It is also to protect the contractor who may sign a contract for disputed land, for example. We want transparent things.
Coming to multilateral agencies, US$15 million from the EU will go towards 34 smallholder irrigation schemes. We are very grateful for this support because irrigation is crucial to building smallholder farmers.
The other important issue is input stocks. I have called on fertiliser and seed companies to distribute the product, not to the cities only but in rural areas as well.
Seed houses and fertiliser companies must take the commodities to the rural farmers rather than waiting for Government to tender for distribution.
All inputs suppliers, including those that supply chemicals, should have their input out there to the farmers in the rural areas.
With maize, it should be different from tobacco where the farmers come to the city to auction then buy their inputs.
Over the years, the suppliers of inputs have always been waiting for Government. As we speak fertiliser companies have 75 000 tonnes of AN in stock. At GMB, we have 22 000 tonnes of compound D and 16 000 tonnes of AN, which is going to vulnerable groups.
The companies which produce fertiliser — ZFC, Windmill and Omnia – are expected to produce by September to December, 300 000 metric tonnes of compound D and 60 000 tonnes of AN.
But we have put in a precautionary measure, that is why the Finance Minister has removed the tariff on fertiliser. We have had challenges before in fertiliser with power challenges.
This is why as of today, I have issued permits to import 200 000 metric tonnes of top dressing fertiliser.
The Reserve Bank Governor released US$5 million for Dorowa Minerals to ensure local fertiliser production, while we also import to avert shortages.
We are adopting a policy to ban import of horticulture products. The farmers must therefore be ready to produce and support the market; this has been helped by the lowering of interest rates.
The fertiliser prices must also come down.
Zesa must reduce load shedding for farmers; for example, wheat farmers complained over power cuts during the winter season.
We hope the Ministry of Energy and Power Development will assist us.
In terms of mechanisation; countries that are helping us are Brazil, China, South Korea, Belarus and Egypt which gave us machinery and irrigation equipment. There are other investments that are taking place.
The French are now a player in the seed sector and they are working with Seed Co while Sweden is buying some of our horticulture products.
In irrigation, we are bringing in technologies that will help us apply water efficiently. We have the travelling gun and drip irrigation. The advantage with mechanisation is that it is a form of improving moisture retention in the soil.
All these endeavours are in line with SONA. What is needed now is to put the systems into action. We are confident that the Finance Ministry and RBZ will honour their word to release the funds on time. The private sector should also play its part.
It is all about concerted efforts so that we can achieve the goals set out in Zim-Asset and the 10-Point Plan.
Dr Joseph Made is the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, and he wrote this article for The Sunday Mail